It was the afternoon of March 25, 2010. We were waiting for the session convening notification from presidency since the summary requisitioning the Joint session of the parliament had gone to the President at around 11:30 am earlier in the day. Normally it takes only couple of hours that the summary is approved by the President, faxed to the Speaker's chamber / Secretary to the National Assembly who acts as the presiding officer for the Joint Parliamentary Session.
Why we were waiting for this important fascimile from president's office was, this joint session had to be a historical one. After more than three decades, the spirit of provincial autonomy and sovereignty of the Parliament had to come back through a parliamentary committee's recommended Constitutional Reforms Package. This package was to be passed by two third majority of the Houses separately. The reason everyone was so sure of this much awaited development, to happen on March 25 was that every political player openly expressed its satisfaction over the constitutional package, which so surely appeared as the first ever consensus constitutional amendment document after the 1973 constitution itself.
Continuously in touch with my source in the National Assembly, who appeared to be quite bored of my repeated phone calls, I stuck myself to TV Screen and laptop, when finally I contacted Speaker's chamber directly at around 4:45 pm, for my entrance pass for the historic joint session, I got a rather unexpected answer. The official at the other end of phone line informed me that there was no summary for "tomorrow's joint session" and asked me where did I get the news from, for any such session?
It dropped in my ears as nothing less than a bombshell. Now I was sure there was something going on in Islamabad, which was not going to be very pleasant for anyone of us – the people of Pakistan. The summary was moved this morning, and was not only confirmed by our source in PM secretariat, but also couple of senior journalists who cover Parliament for quite a long time. We were, unofficially though, confirmed by all these sources that the summary had been faxed to the Presidency at around 11 – 11:30 am. But now the Speaker's Chamber tells us there was no plan for holding the session! What it could be? Despite my repeated attempts to call PML-N mid-level leadership, I could not get them. Confused and disappointed I tried to focus on what I was writing. And heck. There was the ticker going on the TV screen telling that the Session was postponed!
Whatever had happened must be disastrous, I thought. Pakhtunkhwah? But no, only this late morning, an internal meeting of PML-N had unanimously decided to vote for Pakhtunkhwah, according to a private news channel. But the rumours of conflict over it had been making rounds all day. Then what? The riddle soon was solved by Mian Nawaz Sharif, the Quaid of Muslim League Nawaz who held a press conference at 6 pm only to tell people that his party did not agree with the constitutional amendments the Committee for Constitutional Reforms (CCR) had come up with.
Little did he care for the questions he was evading, that arose from this sudden U-turn. The bizarreness of his pretexts to go back on his own words was so obvious and ugly that one was left wondering about how opportunist Pakistan's politics had become! Thanks to the frequently coming boots, with the pet's food they bring for shortsighted politicians, who are now completely unable to think beyond their petty personal interest.
What I did not understand from Mian sahib's long face and sore argument, is not one point. Its a whole host of factors that come in.
ONE: He said he and his party did not agree with the constitutional reforms package in toto. The question arises, why couldn't he and his party members tell this simple fact to the media and the Committee itself? They had consented in letter and spirit less than twenty hours ago and even till 11 am on the day of the press conference. Its a matter of common sense that the Prime Minister had not moved the session requisition summary to the President for the joint session, without taking into confidence biggest opposition party!
TWO: Mian sahib totally evaded the question on the name of Pakhtunkhwah and tilted the controversy towards the mechanism of Judges' appointment issue. His own party members had on record told the media hours earlier, that the CCR had reached the consensus on Judges' appointment issue.
THREE: Throughout the day on March 25, prior to the press conference, Islamabad's offices were echoing with different kinds of news about the internal meeting of PML-N discussing the name of Pakhtunkhwah. There was absolutely no question about the judicial appointments that came to any discussion anywhere. Does that mean Mina Nawaz Sharif was lying with the people when he said in the Press Conference that the only major disagreement was on judicial appointments?
FOUR: In the Press Conference and after wards, Mian Nawaz Sharif kept saying that "the intent of making this committee was mala fide because we wanted to scrap the 17th amendment and the government linked it to other issues, only to delay". May I remind Mian sahib that the Terms of Reference for the Committee were finalized with mutual consent, which was sought by the Speaker through Leaders of Opposition in national Assembly and the Senate. Secondly, why Mian sahib always choose to be dishonest with people so blatantly? Total scrap of 17th amendment was never in discussion. In fact, it was quite clear what all the parties unanimously agree to keep / remove from the 17th amendment. This amendment has many usefull clauses on which no sane person can disagree. These include reserved seats for women and minorities and voting age of 18 years among many others.
Mian sahib's selective amnesia doesn't even allow him to recall that most of Pakistan's problems emanate from center's refusal to grant provinces their rights. When he says that scrap of 17th amendment was simple just because it affects him and only him personally, but the provincial autonomy is too complex to discuss because it has no bearing on his person but has far reaching effects on people?
So, may we deduce that Mian sahib was lying to the people when he said that Committee's linking with overall constitutional amendment was mala fide?
FIVE: Mian sahib in his landmark press conference (for which historian is never going to be able to forgive him if he doesn't rectify it by immediate action), also said that he had major disagreement on judicial appointments. He was however, not able to tell, what those differences were, and why he did not voice those differences when he gave a go-ahead to the requisitioning of the Joint Session few hours ago? Was he lying to the nation?
SIX: Mian sahib told the media in the press conference that the government has taken out his party's recommendations from the final document. He could not specify those recommendations niether could his party members in March 26 meeting of the Committee. Was he again, lying to the nation?
SEVEN: In March 26 meeting of the Committee, the members from other parties took PML-N to task and demanded what their reservations were, and why those reservations were not presented to the COmmittee before making them public through the Press Conference. The PML-N members had no answer. A feeble voice from Ahsan Iqbal told that the reservation was about the name of Pakhtunkhwah. Oh well. But Mian sahib in his press conference said it was due to judges appointment!
Are the people gone nuts or the PML-N and its leadership is insulting people by telling as many lies as they can?
EIGHT: Why PML-N thinks that it can override the decision of people's representatives from the province under discussion? ANP being the overwhelmingly largest supported party in Pakhtunkhwah, had been able to complete the process of consultation at provincial level and brought the decision of the people of Pakhtunkhwah, to the CCR much earlier than March 25 press conference. What moral grounds Punjab's PML-N has to defy so shamelessly the wishes of the people of Pakhtunkhwah? Is it because Mian sahib's son in law comes from the non-Pakhtun area of Pakhtunkhwah? Or is it because Mian sahib's right hand and prominent member of CCR Sardar Mehtab Abbasi is also against the name Pakhtunkhwah? Is the Royal Son In Law more important than the majority of Pakhtunkwah Province?
Is Mian sahib that entangled in personal politics in addition to being a compulsive liar?
NINE: This biggest achievement of current parliament having come up with a consensus document for constitutional reforms, was to give a huge moral boost to the President who had to address the joint session right after the announcement of the package. Was that the reason of Mian sahib's sudden change of mind? This further is confirmed by March 26 statements of PML-N party leaders who have been asking for presidential address as soon as possible, in accordance with the constitution which asks for presidential address in the beginning of every parliamentary year. is it smart politics?
Is Mian Sahib still not able to learn from his frictional politics of 1990s?
TEN: Mian sahib had been extremely concerned about the Charter of Democracy and President Zardari's "going back on his words" and "not keeping promises" – whereas one is at loss on making out the details of what promises Mian sahib has been talking about? If it was Judges' issue, it was resolved as early as March 2009. What other promises he always rants about?
But keeping it aside for a moment, lets come to the charter of democracy. People would be interested to learn, which clauses of the Charter are not being observed by which party? PML-N has been insisting on the mechanism of judges' appointment in total departure from not only the charter but from all democratic norms of Parliament's sovereignty and the constitutional guarantee of the separation of powers. Whose agenda is he serving?
ELEVEN: And last but not the least. Mian Nawaz Sharif was much bothered about the constitutional amendment introduced by Pervez Musharraf, but is not moved an inch on the black laws introduced by General Zia ul Haq, the most ferocious of the dictators of Pakistan whose doings have assisted Musharraf in making of the Pakistan what it is today.
Mian sahib was quite passionate about the 17th amendment, and that too, its clause which deals with the presidential power of dissolving the assemblies and the clause that bars third time premiership. But the 8th amendment never occurred to him as the one introduced by a dictator. Why? Is it because that doesn't hit him personally but hammers the people at large?
Why Mian Nawaz Sharif is doing such a blatantly personal politics? Painting himself as a pious statesmen? Putting himself at highest moral pedestal to point finger on other leaders of this country?
Is Mian Sahib a statesman or a compulsive liar? Why he should not be altogether shunned by the people?